The Devastating Disease of Fear

The following is an email we received from an incarcerated person.

Fear kills. It claimed another victim just a few days ago. In it’s wake, a husband and two young children, devoted and loving parents, and scores of friends and family were left asking why. Why would a healthy, happy, 44 year old mom, wife, daughter, and friend choose to take her life? On a word: FEAR.

Just days before deciding to depart this life, she was arrested and charged with a sex offense. We’ll never know if she was guilty or not she’ll never have an opportunity to defend or face her accusers. For reasons we’ll never know, her voice has been silenced. And why? FEAR.

Sex offenses do happen. There are many who are indeed guilty. Yet as Christian counselor Ed Welch writes, “Guilt lives in the courtroom where you stand alone before the judge. It says, ‘You are responsible for wrongdoing and legally answerable. You are wrong. You have sinned. The guilty person expects punishment and needs forgiveness.'” But while the present justice system seeks to discover the, “who, what, when, where, and how” of any criminal offense, it shows little interest in pursuing the “why.”

A leading cause of sex offenses stem from a life drowning in shame. Noted sex addiction therapist Pat Carnes identifies two of the sex addicts core beliefs as: “I am a bad and unworthy person, and No one would love me as I am.” Of course, such core beliefs remain hidden as the addict reinforces their own shame. Welch continues, “Shame lives in the community, though the community can feel like a courtroom. It says, ‘You don’t belong–you are unacceptable, unclean, disgraced…The shamed person feels worthless, expects rejection, and needs cleansing, fellowship, love, and acceptance.'”

A guilty, or even a self shamed person, can survive as long as they can remain hidden. Unfortunately, this often leads to a secretive double life and a rapidly escalating descent into isolation and despair. When someone commits a sexual sin, they may pursue help through a minister or counselor but in this country, when someone crosses the line and commits a sexual offense, there is nowhere to seek help without also incurring severe legal consequences including a lifetime of public humiliation and shaming on the sex offender registry. Consequently, the toxic time bomb of guilt and shame are merely waiting to explode. When the offense is ultimately exposed, fear lights the fuse.

I’m grieving over my friend’s daughters death. Parents ought never be forced to bury their children. But I’m also angry. The Bible says, “Be angry and do not sin.” But I’ve had enough. We may not be able to eradicate sex offenses, but we can move to forgive the guilty. We may not be able to alleviate the shame emanating from a lifetime of trauma and abuse. But we can provide a safe haven of fellowship, and acceptance. But we can–and must–eliminate the fear.

Fear, not reason and justice, has led lawmakers to create a criminal war on sex offenders. Public and social media use sensationalism and selective reporting to increase their ratings — sex stories sell. Enough is enough! How many of our sons and daughters will take their own lives in desperation when their guilt and shame are ignited by OUR fear. When will the good people speak? When will we stand together, not to be overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good?

I’ll never have the opportunity to meet my sister this side of heaven, but you may be certain I’ll seek her out when I get there. By then of course, she’ll have already discovered what I already know, that she is–and always has been–worthy, acceptable, and loved. And Hannah, I can hardly wait!

You can learn more about the author at www.garywhardyphd.com and contact him at garywhardyphd@gmail.com

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